The expectation I might have created in yesterday’s post, of another walk around the coast and an ascent of Arnside Knott featuring in this post, was slightly inaccurate. I was misremembering. In fact, whilst I did climb the Knott, the walk around the coast I was thinking of took place the following weekend.
On this occasion, when I passed Hollins Farm and entered the National Trust land at Heathwaite, I noticed a path bisecting the two routes I usually choose between, one of which follows the edge of the field towards Saul’s Road and the Knott, whilst the other follows the other boundary, eventually reaching the large open area at the western end of Heathwaite.
Intrigued, I took the middle path.
To find that it took a direct, steep route to the bench which has a very fine view southwards along the coast. There’s a second bench, in a sheltered spot surrounded by Gorse bushes. Has that always been there, or is it a recent addition? It’s odd, but not surprising, that I can’t remember.
From there, I continued to the toposcope which I think of as the ‘top’ of the Knott, although it isn’t quite. The views were more extensive than they had been the day before. It was clear that the previous day’s showers had fallen as snow on the mountains of the Eastern Lakes.
I took a direct route back past Arnside Tower and through Eaves Wood.
Later, I hitched a lift with B, who dropped me at the junction of Storrs Lane and Thrang Brow Lane. From there, I walked home via Yealand Allotment, the meadows of Gait Barrows, Moss Lane and Eaves Wood.
The view from Thrang Brow is excellent, but never seems to lend itself to photographs.
I thought I might get a clear view of the sunset from there, but the intervening ‘high’ ground, presumably Heald Brow, was blocking the view.
Of course, if the sun sets when you are still a few miles from home, then you will be finishing your walk in gathering darkness, so there are no more photos.
Another cheating post! (Apparently) Which will bring 2022 to a close on the blog at long last.
Actually, these first two photos are from the tail end of November and one of our regular Jenny Brown’s Point circulars.
Then we jump forward a bit to a snowy weekend in December and a couple of late local wanders.
The following day, some of the snow had melted in the sunshine, but a little was still clinging on elsewhere…
I had high hopes that the ice would hold and keep me out of the mud. It didn’t.
Just before Christmas, Little S tested positive for Covid. Subsequently, I felt very ill myself, but kept testing negative. Subsequently, my GP has told me that I probably did have Covid.
We still met up at Gearstones just before Christmas with all the usual suspects, but I have no photos to show for it because, still feeling rotten, I generally stayed inside and didn’t brave the snowy weather. It was great to see everyone, none-the-less.
With hindsight, I perhaps shouldn’t have fetched my Mum and Dad to spend Christmas with us, but it was fabulous to see them and I don’t seem to have passed on the lurgy.
We had a ‘continental’* training day at work, starting at eight and finishing at one, not that I actually got away at one. It was the end of November, so that didn’t leave an awful lot of daylight, but with a high start from the Littledale car park, which is not far from Lancaster, and no ambitious plans, there was still time to squeeze in a good little wander.
That’s it, short and sweet. I’m beginning to think that these short, hit-and-run excursions might often be my favourite walks. Having said that, I notice that this one was nearly six miles, so not too brief after all.
Of course, it helps if you have the right terrain for a pleasant, short walk on your doorstep.
*Is there anywhere on the continent where people actually work these hours?
The final day of October half-term, and for reasons I can’t remember, I only set-off for my favourite stroll around the coast to Arnside and back over the Knott at around three in the afternoon.
When I moved to the area, around thirty years ago, there was no salt-marsh at White Creek and none at Grange either, but you could walk on the grass from Knowe Point to Far Arnside. Now the situation is reversed, testament to the way the river channel changes and so keeps the Bay in constant flux.
Likewise, thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have expected to see any Little Egrets in the area, but now they are relatively common, and Great Egrets are also beginning to establish themselves.
If I’ve identified this lichen correctly, and it is Xanthoria parientina, then it’s a common lichen which produces a yellow chemical, xanthorin “thought to be produced as a defence against UV radiation” (source), when the lichen is shaded it doesn’t produce the chemical and is then green.
Lichens are famously a symbiosis between a fungi and a photosynthesising partner, either an algae or a cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). I’ve been reading ‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake, which TBH bought me for Christmas, and apparently many lichens are now known to be multi-species symbiosis, that is, to have three or more species living in partnership.
I didn’t study Biology at school, even to O-level standard, but with hindsight that seems like a crazy decision; the more I learn the more unlikely and astonishing almost every aspect of life seems to be. For example, also gleaned from “Entangled Life’, did you know that are own mitochondrial cells might have started life, in evolutionary terms, as independent bacterial cells? I think I’ve got that right, although, as I said, I’m no biologist!
There were four Little Egrets stalking the shallows just off the promenade in Arnside. They fish by stirring up the riverbed with their feet, and look pretty comical doing it, a sort of avian ‘Ministry of Funny Walks’.
I know: they don’t have black heads, but their name is a bit misleading, because that’s breeding plumage, which, by autumn, they’d just about lost.
If you are reading in the UK, and haven’t got around to watching ‘Wild Isles’ yet, and, to be honest, I’ve only just started myself, there’s some amazing footage in the first episode of Black-headed Gulls trying to steal Sand Eels from Puffins.
One advantage of a late start!
*If you were expecting at least a passing reference to the John Wyndham novel, my apologies**. I like his novels, this one included, but haven’t read it, or any of his others, for a very long time. Fifteen years in to blogging, when most of your posts consist of photos of leaves and butterflies, and the same three walks repeated ad infinitum, it’s sometimes hard to come up with titles you haven’t used before. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
**Although, now, of course, you’ve had it. What are you complaining about?
September, it turns out, was a very busy month, with some notable highlights, so I have a few more posts to come. But I thought I would mention the poetry festival first. I didn’t take any photos, unfortunately, so I’ve used the opportunity to throw in some other September odds and ends.
Our comedy show in Brooklyn and the Latin band we saw in Saranac Lake stood out as high-spots in our New York holiday and I resolved to make the most of any cultural opportunities which came my way closer to home. So when I saw posts about a poetry festival in Morecambe I bought tickets for both the Friday and Saturday evenings. Given that the line up included Mike Garry, Lemn Sissay, John Cooper Clarke, Henry Normal and Linton Kwesi Johnson, all of whom I’ve seen live before, mostly many years ago when I lived in Manchester, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. They were all brilliant, as was Joelle Taylor, who was new to me. This year’s festival is scheduled for the end of September again and the line-up so far includes Carol Ann Duffy, Roger McGough, Brian Bilston, Jackie Kay and Henry Normal again. Very exciting! I need to buy a ticket.
The festival will once again be based at the Winter Gardens, which I see has just secured a substantial grant for more refurbishment. With that and the Eden Project North and a host of cultural events through the year, things seem to be on the up and up for Morecambe. I lived and worked there for many years and am really chuffed to see it has a potentially rosy future.
Not a September thing, but I think I forgot to mention that in June TBH and I saw Daniel Bye and Boff Whalley at the Duke’s Theatre in Lancaster in their show ‘These Hills are Ours’. You may remember that I was involved with them in a project of the same name a while ago. This show doesn’t relate to that, but is about a madcap scheme to run from Lancaster to Kinder Scout to celebrate the Mass Trespass. Highly recommended.
This film is not of the show, but is about a tour in Devon, during which Dan and Boff ran between venues, in mostly foul weather, and is worth a watch.
After all that waffle, in my last post, about my aspirational hare-brained schemes, here’s the evidence of what happens when one of them comes to fruition. Or not.
I’d been planning this one for a while. When I say planning, I mean that in the vaguest of ways. ‘Thinking about’ would be more accurate. Attention to detail was completely lacking.
My family had all bought tickets for Highest Point, an outdoor music festival in Lancaster, not to be confused with Lancaster Jazz Festival, or with The Lancaster Music Festival which is mostly staged in pubs. Why wasn’t I joining them? Well, I was tempted by Kaiser Chiefs and even more so by Basement Jaxx, but the latter were playing a DJ set, and frankly, whatever the attractions, they couldn’t compete with the prospect of a weekend of early summer walking.
So, TBH very kindly dropped me off in Milnthorpe, with about 30 seconds to spare, and I caught the 555 bus through Kendal and Windermere to Grasmere.
I must use the bus more often. It’s a bit slow. And we did sit in Kendal Bus Station for quite some time, for no apparent reason. But I enjoyed being a passenger, and taking in the views, especially after the front seats at the top became available in Kendal, and not having to worry about parking.
Anyway, when I finally arrived in Grasmere, it was bright and sunny and warm for once, much more so than the photos suggest. I popped into Lucia’s for some extra provisions (highly recommended) and then set-off up Easedale in the company of two gentlemen from the North-East, one of whom was very keen to ask for directions (“Is that Helm Crag?”) and tell me about his route, their accommodation in Keswick and so on. The other gent was as taciturn as his companion was garrulous, which made me feel like I was intruding.
Over the years, I’ve looked at maps of the Lakes (particularly my colourful old inch-map, which has a lot to answer for) and thought that I ought to walk along the broad central spine of hills from the Langdale Pikes northwards. I’ve also often thought that it would be brilliant to walk the long ridge from Threkeld to Ambleside over the Dodds and Helvellyn and Fairfield etc. So, here was my madcap scheme – to (sort-of) combine those two, with a bivvy in between, probably on High Rigg I thought.
Since I was using the 555, a start in Grasmere would be easier than trying to get to Langdale, and it would also make it convenient to include Tarn Crag.
It was a really glorious day and on Tarn Crag I sat for quite some time, enjoying the pasty I’d bought in Grasmere and video-calling my mum and dad, to share the views with them.
Since I’d already climbed High Raise earlier in the year, I contemplated trying to contour around from Tarn Crag to Greenup Edge, hopefully visiting a remote little tarn on route, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation to climb High Raise again.
I had another stop on Codale Head, and sat for while.
And then another bit of a sit on High Raise. The views from High Raise are expansive. On this occasion I was sharing those views with quite a few people, most of whom seemed to be participating in some sort of organised challenge walk, with people in teams; I wondered whether it was a corporate bonding exercise, based on some of the conversations I overheard.
Not to worry, they were all heading down to Grasmere from Greenup Edge, having started, I gathered, in Langdale. In fact, the remainder of the day was very, very quiet, at least until I reached Keswick.
It took a while to reach the top of Ullscarf, so another rest and a sit-down seemed appropriate. I have a bit of a soft spot for Ullscarf. Years ago I bivvied a couple of times with friends on the slopes above Harrop Tarn and would then climb Ullscarf via its eastern hinterland early the following morning, often in thick mist. In the days before sat-nav, I was chuffed when I actually managed to arrive on the summit. Those empty slopes above Thirlmere always seemed to be a good place to spot Red Deer.
I finished the last of my water on Ullscarf and then dropped into the top of Ullscarf Gill to refill my water bottle.
Standing Crag is a Birkett, but not a Wainwright. It’s well worth a visit in my opinion. I didn’t stop for a sit here. It was well into the afternoon, and it was becoming clear that I’d probably bitten off more than I could chew.
It seems that a consortium of charities have been restoring the peat bogs here. As well as flagging the paths (sadly with some very soggy gaps between the flagged sections) they’ve also created little dams to create some really wet areas…
It was lovely, in a very wet kind of way.
If I hoped that reaching the rocky top of High Seat would spell an end to the bog, I was destined to be disappointed. But it was drier, at least. And after Bleaberry Fell, the bog-snorkelling comes to an end.
I had a long overdue rest on Walla Crag. I must have looked all-in, as a bloke who walked past asked me if I was okay. Which I was, of course. The light was lovely.
I did briefly contemplate a bivvy on (or near) Walla Crag, but I’d been promising myself a take-away tea in Keswick all day and the draw of a greasy, high-calorie meal won out.
It was still light, just about, as I arrived on the outskirts of town, but it was also almost 10 o’clock, and I was striding out whilst using Google Maps in an attempt to work out where the nearest open shop was. Fortunately, I found a little grocery store which was still serving and stocked up on water and ginger beer. It had been thirsty work!
One of the pubs near the Moot Hall had a live band who were playing an excellent selection of covers. (Heart of Glass, Take Me Out, Maggie May, for example, if memory serves me right.) It was very loud out in the street, lord knows what it was like inside the pub. The town centre was extremely busy with revellers, I suppose I probably stuck-out like a sore-thumb. Or a sun-burned, muddy, sweaty, but very happy hill-walker. Anyway, I found a bench where I could listen to the band and tucked into my well-earned donner and chips. So I got my live music in the end, on top of a day’s walking.
I’d already decided by now that High Rigg (where I envisaged a soft heather bed and a very comfortable night) was much too far away. I was also having doubts about my proposed return route – it would be both longer and with more up and down than the walk I had just done. Too much, I thought.
I opted instead for a midnight ramble on Latrigg.
It was dark, but the moon was bright and it’s a wide, well-made path, so I didn’t really need my headtorch. After a warm day, there was now a cooling breeze. Actually, it was pretty windy and quite cool.
I found what seemed like a reasonable spot, overlooking the town, put on every item of clothing I’d brought, including a balaclava, and climbed into my sleeping and bivvy bags.
How did I sleep? Well, better than I’d expected, which is to say – some. The ground was a bit hard, without a cushioning of heather. Also, at some point during the night, the wind changed direction and I woke up to find that it was blowing over my shoulders and directly into my sleeping bag. I’m usually reluctant to completely seal my bag over my head, it’s a bit claustrophobic I find, but I did that now and then slept much more soundly.
The app gives just over 20 miles all told, and almost 1300m of climbing (which is a bit of an underestimate I think, but maybe not too far out).
Wainwrights: Tarn Crag, High Raise, Ullscarf, High Tove, High Seat, Bleaberry Fell, Walla Crag, Latrigg.
Birketts: all of the above, plus Codale Head, Low White Stones, Standing Crag, Watendlath Fell, Shivery Knott, Middle Crag (I narrowly bypassed Blea Tarn Fell, but, fortunately, I’ve been up there before).
I’m grateful to Mr Birkett for all of those extra ticks: fourteen tops feels like a better return on the effort than eight. Some of them are a bit underwhelming however, but if you like walking in the Lakes (and why wouldn’t you?) I would recommend checking out Codale Head and Standing Crag, I think they should be in everybody’s lists.
And my new plan for the morrow?
You’ll have to wait!
(A short playlist for this post: ‘Higher Ground’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Gotta Keep Walking’ Willy Mason, ‘May You Never’ John Martyn.)
The day after my outing on Sheffield Pike. More sunshine. A local walk for a change.
At Arnside Tower Farm I waited ages for the traffic to clear – the herd were being fetched in for milking and I waited until they’d all passed before crossing the track they were using. A couple of the farms collies joined me as I walked away from the farm. I’ve never owned a dog and have no intention of getting one, but if I ever changed my mind I would want a collie – they seem like such intelligent dogs. I thought this pair would turn back when we passed the Tower, but they didn’t. Maybe they would eventually head back to the farm if I continued down the lane toward the campsite? No.
In the end, I turned back myself and they followed me all the way back to the farmyard, at which point I apparently lost my magnetism and they trotted off to investigate something else.
Early January, a late afternoon start, so not much light to play with. A dropped me off in Yealand, where Storrs Lane meets Thrang Brow Lane, which is also where the right-of-way sets off across Yealand Allotment. I left that path almost immediately, passing Thrang Brow Lime Kiln, and climbing towards Thrang Brow, so that views opened up over Leighton Moss.
From Hawes Water I walked home via Eaves Wood. My winter walks often finish like this…
I can’t put my finger on why, but, in the winter at least, although I don’t like the short winter days when I’m at work, I do really enjoy a walk which finishes in the last of the light, or later.
Three days at the beginning of January to finish our Winterval* break. First off, an Arnside Knott walk. As you can see, it was fairly bright, but very cloudy elsewhere, so the views were highly truncated. No Cumbrian Fells on display, and to the south…
…Warton Crag looking a bit hazy, and the Forest of Bowland, usually the horizon, nowhere to be seen.
The next day’s walk, our ‘standard’ Jenny Brown’s Point circuit, is represented by this single photo of high tide in Quicksand Pool. A grey day!
The next day, a Monday, in lieu of our New Year’s Day Bank Holiday, we had four Roe Deer in the garden: a male and three females.
He was easiest to photograph, since he didn’t move about too much, often sitting quite still…
…also giving himself a thorough grooming…
…occasionally shaking himself in much the same way a dog would, and every now and then having a bit of a snack…
The females were much more intent on feeding themselves. They have a long gestation period and so maybe they were all pregnant and that was the reason for their greater appetite?
I took hundreds of photos, many of them very poor, but it was interesting to be watching them. I was surprised by how catholic their tastes were. We are all too aware that in the spring and summer the deer will come into our garden and eat lots of flowers, but in the middle of winter they seemed keen on just about anything green.
Even the rather leathery looking leaves of our large Fatsia japonica didn’t escape unscathed.
Brambles and Ivy too were firmly on the menu…
Through my zoom lens I could see the deers’ long tongues, seemingly well adapted for grasping leaves and tearing them from the plants.
Two of the does roamed the garden together, never straying from each others’ sides.
The other female occasionally joined them, but mostly plowed her own furrow. Then she joined the buck on our lawn…
And they sat, companionably ignoring one another…
I’m not sure how long I would have sat watching the deer, but then I got an offer of a lift to Arnside from A, who is working in a Care Home there. It was raining a little, but the forecast was for better to come, so this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.
I walked around the coast, as far as the Coastguard station, from where I had to turn inland since the path was underwater.
I followed the road to New Barns. The tide had receded somewhat, although the salt marsh was still inundated…
The remainder of the walk was enlivened by my attempts to capture the crepuscular rays illuminating Morecambe Bay.
Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then shadow sweeps it away. You know you are alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.
Anne Dillard from ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’
I’ve quoted this before, but, somewhat to my surprise, it was ten years ago, so I think that’s okay. I’ve been slowing rereading ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’, which put it in mind, but anyway I’ve come to think of days like this as Partly Cloudies.
When I eventually got home, the three does had disappeared, but the buck was still stationed on our lawn, bold as brass. Nowhere else to be, no calls on his time. Nice work if you can get it!
*Winterval – not a term I ever normally use, but I thought I’d put it out there and see if anyone would bite!
Our little group of friends has been getting together for a weekend before Christmas for donkey’s years. We know what to expect from the weather – rain, rain and more rain. But not to worry, it’s a social weekend really, a chance to catch-up, eat too much food, retell ancient stories of times long gone and maybe sink a few beers.
So, this year, when Saturday morning revealed clear blue skies and sunshine, I think we were a bit unprepared. How else to explain the fact that we didn’t leave our accommodation at Gearstones Lodge until nearly midday, after our usual gargantuan cooked breakfast?
We cut across the fields to Gauber, heading for a steep ascent of Park Fell.
From Park Fell we followed a minor tread which accompanied the drystone wall to Simon Fell.
The cloud inversion was superb, I took lots of photographs – we probably all did – but they all look a bit the same! At the time we also had great fun trying to identify the high ground which was poking through the fog, but, out of context, I’m struggling to do the same with the photos. Not that I was very accurate at the time anyway. I think I managed to find at least three Pendle Hills!
I’ve seen photos from Morecambe FC’s home match that day, some of the boy’s friends were there, and I’m surprised that the match wasn’t abandoned, the visibility was so poor. I doubt that the opposing goalkeepers could see each other. Had you been down in the fog, you might have no idea of the sunshine and clear air so close at hand.
I’d been left well behind as we completed the final climb onto Ingleborough. Just as I arrived on the huge summit plateau I encountered B running back to meet me. My heart sank, I didn’t think he would have good news.
“Have you got a first-aid kit? S has spilt his chin open.”
Apparently, S had slipped and broken his fall with his chin. His hands were scratched and grazed too. Fortunately, by the time I reached the wind-shelter on the top, UF had produced a first-aid kit and a kind passer-by had also provided a suitable plaster.
We cleaned him up as best we could and improvised a dressing with a plaster and a covid face-mask.
The injury wasn’t as severe as last time he spilt his chin, but it was quite a deep wound and I thought that he might need stitches, so he and I left the others enjoying the views and their lunches to make a rapid return to Gearstones.
S and I were talking about this walk recently and he described the light as ‘magical’. It’s good to know that he was still enjoying himself despite the considerable pain he must have been suffering.
B must have come haring after us, because he caught up with us as we descended towards Park Fell.
It was only as arrived back at Gearstones that I remembered that our car was trapped in due to the double parking necessary to get all of our vehicles into the available space. I would have to wait anyway and needn’t really have rushed. It did give me a chance to have a quick shower while we waited. Our friend Doctor F, who had remained at Gearstones, had a look at the gash and was of the same mind, that S needed to visit casualty.
AT Dr F’s suggestion, we phoned Westmorland General Hospital, in Kendal, to check that we’d be okay to go to their Minor Injuries Clinic, rather than the much bigger and much busier A&E at Lancaster. We were, and so S got seen very quickly. It was now several hours since his fall and the doctor told us that the wound was already healing well and that steri-strips would be sufficient. Anyway, S and I were even able to get back in time for the communal meal and subsequent festivities. (A lot of pool and table tennis in the games room, I think)
A stunning day, with just a little too much excitement for my liking. Accident prone Little S is very stoical about these things, perhaps because of all the practice he has had. He was bitten by a dog last weekend, whilst doing his paper round, and didn’t seem very bothered at all – in fact was adamant that we shouldn’t report the incident because the owner was “very nice and apologetic”.